Five years ago, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway confidently walked onto the Oscars stage and semi-confidently announced La La Land as the winner of Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards. The La La Land cast and crew excitedly filed down the aisles of the Dolby Theater, walked up to the stage, and took their places to listen to Jordan Horowitz, Fred Berger, and Marc Platt accept their awards as the producers of the film.
And then there was a titter. Small at first; then bigger. Other people began filing onstage, not in gowns, but in headsets, and carrying other envelopes. And then the envelope snatching began—stage managers from actors, producers from presenters! Because La La Land hadn’t won Best Picture; Moonlight had. What no one knew then, but we all know now, is that Warren Beatty was handed the wrong prop. Rather than the envelope for Best Picture, Beatty and Dunaway walked onstage with the unused envelope for Best Actress, which read only: “Emma Stone, La La Land.” So, when it came time to announce the best movie of the year, seeing only one movie listed, Dunaway read it aloud.
There were multiple points at which forking Moonlight’s award (the most monumental award in film!) over to La La Land could have been prevented, but those points never came to fruition, leading to the biggest televised blunder in Oscars history. And though everyone involved handled this mishap about as gracefully as they possibly could have onstage, at the time, the resounding feeling was that this was a lose-lose situation. For the group that thought they won, gave acceptance speeches, and then had to find out they lost onstage—it was losing. For the group that won, but first were led to believe they lost so that once they won, they were barely able to believe it nor receive proper credit for it—it definitely didn’t feel like winning!
Which is why, five years later, I am thrilled to tell you that everyone involved in the 2017 Oscars mixup is still incredibly famous, incredibly rich, and incredibly fine. If the “Imagine” video taught us anything, it’s that celebrities are rarely a reassuring presence in times of hardship (and to be extremely clear, that is the only thing the “Imagine” video taught us). But celebrities can rest assured that if you’re famous enough, even when you lose, you win. Because it’s not just an honor to be nominated for an Oscar, it’s also basically the most valuable LinkedIn endorsement ever created, and it’s presented to you not by a practical stranger you once worked with at a Jamba Juice, but by the most important and well-regarded people in the film industry.
The Oscars mix-up was a decidedly bad moment for everyone—excluding late night hosts, morning show hosts, the people watching at home who finally got a moment of unprecedented excitement, any business competitors of PricewaterhouseCoopers, people who podcast about the Oscars, and Matt Damon’s chances of eventually playing PwC accountant Brian Cullinan in a movie—but the bottom line is that if you’re at the Oscars, you’ve already won. So five years after the fact, let’s check in with how the key players are doing now.
Honestly, they’re totally fine. After much investigation, and even more envelope snatching, it was discovered that the Oscars mix-up boiled down to PwC accountant Brian Cullinan, who had one job—to hand out the right envelope—and messed it up (seemingly because he was too busy tweeting). But Cullinan didn’t get fired from PricewaterhouseCoopers, and PricewaterhouseCoopers is still: the only auditing company anyone knows by name; the only auditing company to have ruined the Oscars; and the only auditing company still used by the Oscars. They’re doing just fine.
The La La Land Producers
When a zombie apocalypse hits, you want someone like La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz on your side: calm under pressure, but also simmering with a righteous rage that fuels him to do the right things, in the right order, while everyone else panics. After realizing that all the extra people storming the stage meant that La La Land hadn’t actually won Best Picture, Horowitz first proclaimed Moonlight’s win with his whole chest and then promptly snatched the (now correct) envelope right out of Warren Beatty’s hand in order to hold up the piece of paper directly to the camera, proving to everyone at home that Moonlight had won.
Even though Horowitz and fellow producers Platt and Berger had already verbally accepted the Best Picture award, they all graciously forked over their statues when the Moonlight crew took the stage. And since then? They’re doing great! Platt’s and Berger’s respective IMDb pages look like a Cheesecake Factory menu, positively crawling with new and dynamic projects. And Horowitz may look a little less busy on paper, but that’s because he’s been busy writing the Disney feature sequel to Stargirl, starring literally the best combination of people I can think of: Judy Greer and Uma Thurman. Everybody’s doing great!
The La La Land Actors
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone became the go-to onstage reaction shots for the evening, because their faces looked exactly like ours at home—a mixture of dawning horror and nervous laughter. But unlike us, Gosling and Stone are both frequently nominated for Oscars, with Stone securing her first win that very night. Even though Gosling took a few years off from making movies, he’s still one of the most famous actors on the planet, plus he’s set to star as Ken in the Barbie movie cowritten by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (the arthouse Ken and Barbie of Hollywood). Not to be outdone, Stone recently starred in the criminally underrated Cruella (yes, it’s nominated for two Oscars this year, and yes it’s still criminally underrated), where she makes a dress out of bugs and kills way less dogs than you might think. It is really great!
It’s easy to forget that La La Land actually won a bunch of Oscars before very publicly losing one. At 32, Damien Chazelle became the youngest winner for Best Director ever. Perhaps that age is why he looked so lost when chaos erupted on that stage:
But now? He’s doing great! Chazelle is writing-directing another Hollywood-themed movie set to come out this year that casually stars Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. He also still holds his Oscar record. Good for him!
Two years after John Legend stood onstage to watch La La Land not win Best Picture, he literally EGOT’ed. He’s doing great!
Jimmy Kimmel is so famous. He’s on his 19th year of hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live, which he’s won two Emmys for since personally blaming Steve Harvey for causing the Oscars blunder in 2017. (Harvey announced the wrong Miss Universe winner in 2015, and also remains very famous, very rich, and, more recently, snatched beyond belief.) Hosting can be a notoriously thankless job, but when you’re not personally blamed for ruining the Oscars at the end of it—that’s a pretty solid outcome!
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty
They’re great, they’re fine—Hollywood icons, and the king and queen of deflecting blame! As legend has it, following announcing the wrong name, Faye Dunaway was surprisingly nonplussed by being a part—the voice, even—of the biggest flub in Oscars history, and proceeded to head backstage and have a little snack before continuing on with her evening. On the other hand, Warren Beatty, bless his heart, wouldn’t let go of the wrong envelope he was handed until everyone knew, and agreed, that the whole thing wasn’t his fault. (He also wouldn’t let go of the right envelope because he wanted to hand it directly to Moonlight director Barry Jenkins.) And now? We do know it wasn’t their fault, and Beatty and Dunaway remain the legends they’ve always been. Great!
In 2017, Busy Philipps was known for being the least-famous famous person in this now infamous photo full of famous people staring on in horror as they realize that the wrong Best Picture winner has been called. That’s probably still true, but Busy Philipps is also very successful; since then, Philipps has hosted her own talk show and starred in Girls5Eva, which everyone should legally have to watch before they’re allowed to stream any other TV shows. A few other ingenues featured in that infamous audience reaction shot include Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, David Oyelowo, Salma Hayek, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and The Rock. Between them, they have been nominated for 35 Academy Awards, 21 Primetime Emmys, and one of them scream-troduced the Super Bowl this year. Everyone! Is Doing! Great!
The Moonlight Cast
Literally the day after not getting their appropriate Best Picture due on the Oscars stage, Calvin Klein dropped a new campaign featuring the male cast of Moonlight that was so simultaneously adorable and absolutely ab-tacular that I still think about it to this day. Since then, Mahershala Ali won another Oscar (and he’s gonna be Blade), adorable Jharrel Jerome became big Jharell Jerome and won an Emmy, and Naomie Harris starred in the notably perfect (and perfectly unhinged) film Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Everyone is thriving!
The Moonlight Crew
Since being rushed to accept their Best Picture award after first being told they’d lost, then being told to come onstage and make speeches, producers Adele Romanski and Jeremy Kleiner, and director Barry Jenkins have been—oh that’s right, you guessed it—doing great! Kleiner was nominated for another Oscar for Vice in 2019, and Romanski and Jenkins continue to churn out bangers like If Beale Street Could Talk and The Underground Railroad. Oh yeah, they’re also working on a Lion King prequel. And perhaps just as importantly as any of that, Jenkins remains one half of the single coolest relationship in Hollywood, alongside fellow filmmaker LuLu Wang. Everyone is doing great!
Of course, the hanging chad of this little theory that everyone is doing great five years after the biggest Oscars flub in history is, admittedly, the Oscars themselves. Forever attempting to reinvent things about the award ceremony that don’t necessarily need reinventing, the Oscars announced this year that it would be organizing a fan favorite vote via Twitter, which, in true Twitter fashion, may somehow wind up personally rewarding Camila Cabello instead of Spider-Man: No Way Home, or whatever. The Oscars then further announced that, as the film industry’s most renowned ceremony, it would not be airing live eight categories vital to filmmaking. Not great!
But can’t the Oscars see that even when they’re bad, they’re good? That they are the pinnacle of achievement in film, and they should act like it? That they do have a huge impact on the films and filmmakers they were created to award, so they should hand said filmmakers said awards onstage, at the Oscars (even if, oops, occasionally one of those awards is wrong)? Come on, Oscars! Everyone else is doing great—let yourself be great too.